The UK's promised ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has been confirmed, and it will come 10 years sooner than the date originally announced three years ago.
In effect, the run-in period has been halved, which presents a huge challenge for the entire motoring world: car designers, makers, retailers, owners and drivers.
Despite this – and the fact that in our recent submission to the government, we argued for a 2038 cut-off – Autocar enthusiastically welcomes the rapid advance of the electric age. We love clean air. We fear climate change. We already know fantastic electric cars can be built and we look forward to owning and driving them.
We especially support the decision (for which we argued) to allow some hybrid cars to be sold for a further five years, to accommodate high-mileage drivers while battery and infrastructure progress catches up with real-world and long-distance motorists’ demands.
We note also that the Prime Minister’s 10-point announcement on electrification includes what appears to be a game-changing £12 billion investment in a “green industrial revolution”, which must surely promise many new jobs and an expanded electrification industry, provided of course that the inevitable changes to existing industry don't eliminate too many existing jobs. Who in 2030 will need, for instance, a gearbox factory?
However, there are many scary challenges. Even Andy Eastlake, the managing director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (whose demands have been mainly met by Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan) warns that we “shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead”. The real work, he says, starts now.
So far, individual manufacturers have been mainly mute on the changes and their effects, although their collective body, the SMMT, called them “extremely concerning” while issuing a broad welcome. BMW has given voice, noting that the UK is only one of its 140 markets and somewhat of a lone voice, but it expects to be well able to supply UK-compliant cars when the law changes.
Autocar’s support for the once-a-century developments is strong but contingent on a number of important factors:
(1) The emergence of an enlightened ministerial organisation to support and encourage the industry and market that must deliver.
(2) The drafting of imaginative inducements both to manufacturers and motorists, rather than penalties for those who are seen to drag their feet.
(3) Reassurance that those who can't afford to make the electric change in time for 2030 will be able to run petrol and diesel cars viably for 5-10 years longer.
(4) Reassurance that classic car ownership (which contributes only 0.2% to annual car mileage) won't be penalised for reasons of window-dressing.
(5) Strong parallel action in other polluting areas — aviation, home heating, shipping, heavy goods transportation — to cut both toxic emissions and CO2. Car-making must not be seen (as it already is in some quarters) as a soft target.
If these concerns can be met, Autocar looks forward to an exciting era of car creation that will also bring forth profitable new technologies, create many thousands of new jobs and, above all, make an important contribution to reducing atmospheric pollution – which is why, as must never be forgotten, we’re doing all this.